Previous month:
March 2011
Next month:
May 2011

On Writing


This is my kitchen cupboard, my secret shame. Or not so secret, if you came over for dinner some time. I get a little bit of agita every time I open the cupboard and a bag of dried beans or a bottle of vanilla extract almost comes flying down. Don't get me started on the teetering stack of sardine cans or the saffron packet half askew or the seven spaghetti left in one box that keep sliding out each time I pull out the tea tin (every morning, hey-oh!). My mother will take one look at this photo and will have to sit down and fan herself, I guarantee you.

This is also a little what my head feels like these days. It's bursting at the seams with a million to-do lists, a thousand little worries, a hundred sleepless moments. Our wedding is less than two months away and my manuscript is due in just three months and three days. Impeccable timing, no? My editor keeps telling me that I'm doing it, I'm actually doing it, and doing it well even, but you know what? It's the weirdest thing, I swear, but I don't believe her.

Writing a book, it's something I've wanted my whole life. But it's also something I've been terrified of doing ever since I realized I wanted to do it. (Gah, the eloquence.) Now that I find myself sitting in front of my computer every day, attempting to make my own dream come true, well, it's the hardest work I've ever done. I'm filled with doubt and worry and a lot of other unattractive emotions.

Who ever thought I could write?

People will hate this book.

No, actually, no one will even read it.

And the grand-daddy of them all, the Hooded Fang, my own night terror: I can't do this.

Ah, yes. One is always one's own worst enemy, isn't one?


I had plans this week to tell you about a soup from Gwyneth Paltrow's new cookbook, my attempt to recreate City Bakery's dark chocolate cookies with white chocolate chunks and my tentative venture into the wild and crazy world of rye sourdough, but then everything went a little haywire. The soup wasn't what I was hoping for, the cookies weren't very good and the sourdough, well, it got gnarly. I made a wonderful pan of roasted potatoes and fennel and chicken last night for dinner, but who needs a recipe for that?

(In case you do: Peel and chunk a bunch of potatoes, slice a bulb of fennel into wedges. Combine together in a roasting pan with olive oil, rosemary and flaky salt. Roast in a 400 degree oven for 40 minutes, until browned and fragrant and blistery. In the meantime, put two skin-on, deboned chicken breasts in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil and the juice of a quarter lemon. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and some chopped rosemary and sage. Let marinate while the potatoes roast. When the potatoes are done, remove pan from the oven and cover with aluminum foil. Put the chicken breasts and their marinade in a small roasting pan and put in the oven, at the same temperature, for 20 minutes. Remove, plate, eat.)

Then, while my kitchen was turning on me and churning out food that made me want to go eat French fries for dinner, this little blog here, my little engine that could, was nominated in the Best Cooking Blog category of Saveur's Food Blog Awards, alongside such beauties and kindred spirits as 101 Cookbooks, Smitten Kitchen, Lottie & Doof, Sprouted Kitchen and I Made That!

So that was very, very nice. Heidi suggested that the winner cook dinner for everyone else, which I think is a splendid idea, because I'd very much like a reason to sit around a dinner table with these folks soon. If you'd like to vote for any of us, head on over to Saveur and sign up. (If you're not a resident of the US or Canada, don't worry: Just select either country as the one you live in and your vote will be recorded all the same. Saveur's working on updating the system to include international votes, but it might take some time.) Thank you!


I'm heading out of town tomorrow on a couple of different assignments and will be back late next week, hopefully laden down with lots of good things for you and a slightly clearer head.

But before I go, I have to tell you something. I've said this before but I'll say it again and again and again: Thank you for reading and for being my audience. For a self-doubting writer, I count myself among the luckiest. Because I have all of you here with me and your presence alone is one of the biggest motivators I have, if not the biggest. When the book writing threatens to overwhelm me with fear and loathing, do you know what I do? I take a deep breath and I visualize you, my friends, my silent readers, my loyal commenters. I imagine you reading this book and holding it in your hands and then, funnily enough, my worries slink away and I know I can do it.

In other words, you make me feel brave. Thank you.

Friday Link Love


It's a very long weekend here, what with Good Friday and Easter Monday, and the weather is promising to be duly wonderful. Max moves to a small town in western Germany next week for a new job, so this is my last week of waking up next to him every morning and going to sleep next to him every night, of having my constant companion to eat lunch with every day. To distract ourselves, we're going to this tulip show tomorrow to snap photos of all the crazy blooms and we're going to sit outside at a biergarten near our apartment in the evenings and toast to new beginnings.


Jeana's new blog on Korean cooking has me inspired. My favorite quote so far: "Don't use cayenne or western chilli powder. It will taste confusing."

"It was delicious while it lasted." Jay McInerney on Ferran Adrià.

Oh, to be a Californian with easy access to fresh backyard kumquats. Oh, then to make Kumquat Earl Grey marmalade.

Adam yells at his friend Patty, but it's all in the service of his readers. I, for one, am grateful, because now I know how to make a French 75.

Easy shrimp tostadas, be still my beating heart.

Molly likens tofu to foie gras, then follows up by posting her favorite way of eating it, braised with ground pork. It is on her Must-Eat Top Ten list and now it's at the top of my Must-Try, Like, Right Now list.

Have you ever heard of putting bread crumbs on ice cream? (Via home*economics.)

And finally, I guarantee that this reel of Martha Stewart bloopers will make you laugh out loud (via Kim Severson).

Have a lovely weekend, friends.

Jane Lear's Apple Crisp


We're in that weird in-between phase where the weather's warming up and the markets are starting to glow with mounds of ghostly white asparagus, tender baby onions and the first shoots of rhubarb, but old habits die hard and I still find myself reaching for the last butternut squashes and apples from the fall. I keep wanting to smack my own hands for doing it, but I usually don't realize it until I've already paid and am turning away from the stand, heavy bags in hand.

I guess spring fever really does addle the mind.

So we had roast butternut squash purée this week, the same week we went out for our first ice cream cones and starting sleeping with our legs stuck out from under the covers in search of cooler air. And to rid myself of the last wrinkly little apples gathering dust in the bowl that I like to pile them in during the colder months, I made an apple crisp.


Let's just pause for a moment and give thanks for the mighty fruit crisp. How I do love it. May I count the ways?

1. It allows you to use up fruit you wouldn't eat under any other circumstances due to spots, wrinkles and other blemishes of old age.

2. It can be made in the time it takes you to eat dinner.

3. It requires no special ingredients at all.

4. It can be eaten both for dessert and breakfast.

5. It makes your house smell amazing. Move over, Diptyque.


I got the recipe for this particular crisp from Jane Lear's blog, where she tucked it into a post about her favorite pan. Since then, I've made it about four different times, usually with apples, but once with rhubarb, which I brought to a dinner party hosted by some German friends who could have been summarily knocked over with a feather once they starting eating it. "But it's so good!", and, "How did you do it?"

I'm still chuckling about that.

You barely need a recipe, as you probably already know. Just some key elements: a bit of fruit, in this case about five apples, some oats, in this case a mixed grain müsli we had lying around the kitchen, some brown sugar, some pecans, a bit of cinnamon, and butter. That's it. That's it!


After my American grandfather had a stroke several years ago and went to live in an old-age home, my stepmother and father went down to Philadelphia to deal with the apartment he'd left behind. Almost everything was sold or given away, the impeccable Danish modern furniture, the tchotchkes, the art. My uncle kept a few paintings, my dad his favorite little table. And my stepmother, lovely woman that she is, poked her head into the kitchen and made sure a few pots and pans were put aside for me.

Which is why I think of her and my grandmother now everytime I pull out this old yellow baking dish. It's sort of the perfect size for one or two people. Just big enough for roasting a few shallots in vinegar, or for making baked tomato sauce, or for an apple crisp that'll last long enough for a few desserts and breakfasts. It's worn but not too worn, the yellow is sunny and yolk-like and it makes a satisfying clang when plonked down on the kitchen counter.

What I think is important to remember about a crisp is that it shouldn't be too sweet and there should definitely be pecans involved, because there is something about the alchemy between toasting pecans, brown sugar and butter that makes the world stop turning. Combine that with tart-sweet apples that have gone all limp and soft in the oven and you've got yourself a pretty wonderful weeknight dessert. I don't ever put ice cream or cream on it because I figure it's decadent enough to be eating a baked dessert on a weeknight rather than just a plain apple sliced into quarters, but if you wanted to gussy things up for a weekend or a party, gild away with dairy!


There's little that can beat, however, a bowl of this cooled to room temperature in the morning and spooned up with a dollop of cold plain yogurt for breakfast. Who needs fried eggs or pancakes when there's yesterday's apple crisp?

This was the last crisp of the season, since I really can't bear to buy any more apples, not when there are little berries winking at me in the market and stalks of rhubarb waving away right next to them. Soon we'll be picking berries out in the countryside around Berlin and then there will be elderflowers and plums and cherries galore and I'll forget entirely about apples until the first cold weekends again in the fall when all I'll want to do is turn the oven on and start baking again. But there's something so sweet and simple about this dessert that it makes me a little melancholy to leave it behind.

So if it's still cool where you are, if you're still grateful to turn the oven on for a little while at dinnertime, if you still want the scent of cinnamon and baking apples and toasting pecans to waft through your home before they're supplanted with warm breezes and the smell of cut tomatoes on the kitchen counter, then make this crisp, snuggle into your couch after dinner and spoon up the last flavors of winter.

Happy Easter, everyone. Happy Passover. And happy spring!

Apple Crisp
Serves 4

5 to 6 apples, I used Pinova, peeled, cored and sliced
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon rolled oats or a müsli mix with rolled oats, whole-grain flakes and seeds
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup pecans, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons butter, softened, plus more for the pan.

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly butter the bottom and sides of a baking dish. Pile in the apple slices.

2. Combine the oats, sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon and pecans in a bowl. Work the butter into the oat mixture with your fingers until it forms small, moist clumps.

3. Sprinkle the topping over the apples (it won’t completely cover the fruit) and slide the dish into the oven for about half an hour. The crisp should be fragrant and bubbling around the edges and the apples should be cooked through.

Friday Link Love


Hoo! Are you all done with your taxes or is it going to be down to the wire until Monday for you? What joy! I'll be drowning my sorrows in the first picnic of 2011 tomorrow. That should help. I'm also going to be on the hunt for unstamped eggs to blow out for Easter egg dying. Don't these look beautiful?


I am a sucker for banana cake. It makes me weak in the knees every time. This one with Nutella frosting looks pretty irresistible.

Hee. A little bun moment (via the blue hour).

I never met a pickle I didn't love. Cathy's deviled eggs with pickled Swiss chard stems sound delicious.

Ever wonder what the ladies at the Canal House eat for lunch every day? Wonder no more.

You could have knocked me over with a feather if you'd told me as a child that I'd one day miss eating lima beans. But the truth is, I do. Especially when I see something like Delaware creamed succotash.

I wish I could hang this edible poster in my kitchen and in my office (via Clotilde).

And finally, this new piece by Gabrielle Hamilton about her mother-in-law (it's not in the book!) just about broke my heart.

Have a good weekend, lovelies.

Karen DeMasco's Devil's Food Cupcakes


I still remember the first time I ate a Karen DeMasco cupcake. It was back in the days when I worked in a lofty office on the 11th floor of a building near Union Square. I had a corner office with hardwood floors and beautiful views of all the water towers of the area (and a very sweet boss who for some reason worked in the smaller office). I'd ordered lunch that day from 'Wichcraft, a soup and a half sandwich, but when the bag arrived - to this day, I'm not sure why - they'd also included a little plastic container holding one almost-black cupcake, thinly glossed with chocolate icing.

I was and am not a cupcake person. I have never liked buttercream and the aching sweetness of most cupcakes just sent me soaring into shaky-hands territory every time I ate one at an office birthday or baby shower. Nah, I prefered the inside-out cookies from City Bakery (now sadly defunct, the cookies, not the Bakery) or a little pot of Kozy Shack rice pudding for an afternoon sweet snack. Then suddenly, unexpected and alluring, nothing other than a cupcake sat before me. But it wasn't covered in an inch of frosting and it didn't look saccharine at all. I put it aside and ate my lunch, glancing over at the cupcake every once in a while, as if making sure it was still there, hadn't evaporated like a tiny little leprechaun.

Eating it was sort of mind-altering. It was tender as can be, the softest, most delicate crumb I'd eaten in a cupcake, or cake, for that matter, but with the gutsiest, deepest, darkest chocolate flavor ever. I sort of couldn't square the two away in my head together for a while. The thin chocolate icing cap was a textural pleasure and then, poof, suddenly in the middle of the cupcake, I alighted upon a bubble of whipped cream that I wasn't expecting at all. It was, hands down, the best cupcake of my life. Nothing even came close. After that, nothing really deserved to be called cupcake either.


It was for that recipe alone that I couldn't wait for Karen to publish her book. And a few years later, namely, a few weeks ago, I went into the kitchen to bake the first batch of "my" cupcakes.

(Now, let's just all take a moment here and acknowledge that this home baker would never be able to exactly replicate something that a trained pastry chef made on a daily basis. Plus, the exalted memory of a single cupcake eaten over four years ago was going to be tough to live up to. Lastly, I was an idiot and didn't buy a pastry bag with a metal piping tip like I should have. Don't be an idiot.)

The batter for the devil's food cake is relatively easy. You make a cocoa paste, a mixture of the dry ingredients and then a wet mix with creamed butter and sugar, buttermilk and eggs. All three are folded and blended and mixed together until you have a gorgeously creamy, shiny batter. I wanted to spackle my kitchen with this batter, wanted to use it as a face mask, wanted to sculpt a statue out of it. It was so tactile and whippy and glossy.


The batter baked up nicely into dark, domed cakelets. A warning: Whatever you do, don't let these overbake, even for a minute. Err on the side of underbaking rather than overbaking.  It'll make the difference between a moist, tender cupcake and a rather hohum-ish one. The tester shouldn't be entirely clean, but don't let it come out covered in raw batter either.

The rest of the preparation can be pretty fun, granted you have a proper pastry bag with a metal tip. Remember? I didn't, so the rest of my afternoon was spent with a Ziploc bag, a plastic spatula, a paring knife, a bowl of whipped cream, and lots of sweaty, angry cursing. I'll leave it at that. If properly armed, your metal pastry tip gets inserted into the bottom of the cupcake and you squirt cream filling into the cupcake until pressure on the top of the cupcake lets you know you've filled it to capacity. Easy!

The best part, as far as I'm concerned, is dipping the cupcakes into their shiny cap of chocolate ganache. If I was Queen of the World, I'd make a decree banning buttercream frosting for eternity and make the thin, elegant, shiny slip of icing (chocolate, lemon, what-have-you) de rigueur for cupcakes. The original recipe has you use corn syrup in the ganache for stability, but seeing as corn syrup costs something like 10 bucks a bottle here, I left it out with fine results.


Oh, and how did they taste, you're wondering? It's pretty hard to go wrong with a dark chocolate cupcake, tender with buttermilk, fragrant with vanilla and chocolate, a creamy white filling, and that dark bitter top. They're wonderful as far as cupcakes go and were eaten with wide-eyes and professions of love and astonishment.

Did they measure up to that one cupcake consumed at my desk in New York all those years ago? They didn't, of course. But how could they, really? That cupcake was an unexpected gift, a memory frozen in time, a reminder of my old life that will always be suffused with golden light. I will never, ever forget it.

Devil's Food Cupcakes with Cream Filling 
Makes 14-16 cupcakes
Note: The recipe makes for more filling than you'll need and more batter, too (hence the adjusted yield noted in the line above, as opposed to the original recipe). You can bake the cupcakes in batches if you have only one muffin tin, or use small ramekins lined with paper liners. As for the leftover whipped cream filling, eat it for dessert? The ganache topping is meant to be generous, so that you can easily drag your cupcakes through it once or twice for a good, shiny cap.

For the cupcakes:
3/4 cup plus 1 1/2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup cake flour
2/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners, if you have more than one 12-cup muffin tin. Otherwise line a standard 12-cup muffin with liners and then line small ramekins (if you have them) for the remaining batter.

2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the cocoa powder and 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water to form a paste; set aside.

3. In another bowl, sift together the cake flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the brown sugar with the butter on medium speed until they are well combined with no pieces of butter visible. Add the cocoa paste, making sure to use a spatula to get all the cocoa paste into the mixer bowl. Once this is well combines, add the egg and egg yolk. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. In three additions each, add the buttermilk and vanilla extract, alternating with the flour mixture.

5. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling them 3/4 full. Bake, rotating the tins halfway through, until the cupcakes spring back to the touch and a tester inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out mostly clean, 20-25 minutes. Invert the cupcakes onto a wire rack, turn them top side up, and let them cool completely.

For the cream filling:
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. To make the filling, combine the cream, confectioners' sugar, and vanilla extract in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat on medium speed to soft peaks, about 4 minutes. Put the cream into a pastry bag fitted with a small piping tip. Using a paring knife, make a small cut in the bottom of each cupcake, through the paper, to insert the tip of the pastry bag. Insert the tip of the pastry bag about 1 1/2 inches into a cupcake. Gently squeeze the bag while holding the fingers of your other hand over the top of the cupcake. When you feel a slight pressure on the top of the cupcake, stop filling. Repeat with each cupcake.

For the ganache:
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons light corn syrup (optional; I didn't use this)

1. To make the ganache, put the chocolate in a small mixing bowl. Combine the cream and the corn syrup, if using, in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour over the chocolate right away, and stir slowly until all of the chocolate melts and the ganache is silky and shiny.

2. Carefully dip the top of each cupcake in the ganache, tapping gently to remove the excess. Return the cupcakes to the wire rack to let the glaze set up, at least 30 minutes.

3. The cupcakes can be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Molly O'Neill's Roasted Carrot and Red Lentil Soup


So here's a little story for you. On Saturday morning. I was strolling around my favorite green market, filling my bag with snappy asparagus, hyacinths and peonies, rosy little radishes and rondes de Nice, those round zucchini that you're meant to stuff with seasoned ground meat and bake in the oven. I didn't expect to find them at the market, and I couldn't help but buy four of them, round and glossy and firm. Inspired with memories of the petits farcis of Nice, I stopped at the organic butcher to look for ground meat. As I stood in line, though, I decided to use ground dark chicken meat instead, lightening the filling.

Suddenly it was my turn. I asked for chicken thighs, ground. The butcher stared at me, asked me to repeat my request. I pointed to the chicken thighs and asked if he could grind them. Realizing he'd understood me the first time, he shook his head, almost disappointed in me. Maybe even a little indignant? "We don't do that." Now it was my turn to stare. "If you order five kilos? In advance? Then we'll grind the thighs for you. Otherwise, sorry, it's just too exotic."

Exotic! Ground chicken meat! Folks, you can't make this stuff up.


Back at home, hungry for lunch, I decided to put the zucchini away and turn to something else I'd been craving for a while, armed with an old recipe of Molly O'Neill's for red lentil ragout. Yes, I was craving legumes. I suppose that's pretty exotic(!), too.

The original recipe starts with a roasted panful of carrots and onions and ends with ancho chile and other exotic spices. It sounded absolutely wonderful. The only problem was that I didn't have ancho or chipotle chile powder. (Note to self: add to shopping list for May.) So I decided to improvise a little, which turned out to be just fine, because, man, that recipe was wonky. I almost charred my sweet little carrots to a blackened crisp, before realizing that roasting them at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 35 minutes is definitely not the best path to delicious food. Untested recipes! They make you a better cook, I guess.

Instead of ancho and chipotle chile powder, I decided to use a mixture of cayenne, Aleppo pepper and smoked paprika. And let me tell you, folks, this turned out to be a serendipitous choice. Also, exotic! (I'm sorry.)


So here's what happens. You roast a bunch of carrots in the oven with lots of salt and olive oil (and pepper) until they're soft and browned. It is almost impossible not to eat these carrots with your fingers the minute they come out of the oven. Resist! You must! (Onions are tossed in at the very end in rings and they go all fragrant and shriveled.)

Then you chop the carrots into bite-sized pieces and scrape the onions and carrots into a pot with some olive oil and the spices. These cook for a minute and start to release all their wonderful oils and flavors. That's when you add the red lentils and stock. You let the whole thing simmer away for about half an hour, stirring occasionally, while the lentils break down into agreeable sludginess.


What you're left with, in the end, is an improbably sweet and spicy stew. The sugars concentrated in the carrots through the roasting infuse the soup with honeyed sweetness, and are a good balance to the heat of the spices that will warm your body as you spoon up lunch.

The amount of cayenne that I used resulted in a very spicy stew. Not mouth-numbing, but enough to make you stop and take a bite of bread every once in a while. This is what I was going for, maybe just a little bit out of flounciness towards that butcher. Exotic? I'll show you exotic. If you'd rather have a milder stew that's no less nuanced and delicious, just leave out the cayenne or use less of it.

I loved this soup. Loved it. Loved the nubby red lentils, the sweet, melting carrots, the blessed heat that made my nose run, the fragrant soupiness of each spoonful. I sat on my balcony in the sunshine and ate my spicy, stewy soup and thought about that butcher, so solid in his traditions and his convictions, so unbending in the face of a customer's request. Living in Germany is a pleasure and a trial, just like any place, I guess. Thank goodness I've got my kitchen to keep me anchored, no matter where I am.

Roasted Carrot and Red Lentil Soup
Serves 6

1 1/2 pounds carrots, peeled
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 medium onion, sliced thin
3/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (less if you want a milder stew)
1/8 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
1 cup red lentils
4 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lay the carrots in a roasting pan and toss with 3 tablespoons oil. Season with the salt and a few grinds of pepper. Roast for 20 minutes. Turn the carrots, add the onion and roast 15 minutes, until the carrots are brown and tender. When carrots are cool enough, cut them in bite-sized chunks.

2. Warm 2 tablespoons oil in a saucepan. Add the carrot-and-onion mixture and the peppers and paprika. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in the lentils. Add the stock and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 25 minutes, until the lentils are falling apart. Check for seasoning and serve.

Kim Boyce's Oatmeal Pancakes


Yes, I know it's Friday and not the weekend, and I know that pancakes are a weekend food, but I've been thinking a lot about living in the moment and gratitude and the fleetingness of life lately and so, when I woke up this morning wishing for pancakes, I decided I should be grateful for the fact that I am currently in a work situation that allows me to make pancakes on a school day (so to speak) and just do it, instead of settling for dryish spelt flakes and skim milk and feeling Grinch-ish about, well, everything.

So I did! I boiled up a quick pot of oatmeal, I used my new orange spice grinder (thrifted by a very resourceful friend of mine) to grind up rolled oats into velvety-soft oat flour and I made us pancakes for breakfast. Max, still sleepy-eyed and soft around the edges, was a little confused when he walked into the kitchen and saw the detritus of flours and pans on the counter, butter melting on the stove. But he's a good sport. He dug right in.


Oatmeal always makes me think of my grandmother in Philadelphia, my father's mother. I still remember the bowls of oatmeal she made me eat as a kid, a pat of butter melting on top of the small hill of creamy oats. I didn't love oatmeal, but I was an obedient child and so I ate it whenever she put it in front of me. It made Grandma so happy to feed people. Whenever we visited, after driving for hours on the highway between Boston and Philadelphia, we'd find their refrigerator swollen and stuffed for our arrival. Pans of freshly made Jell-O, stewed pears and pink applesauce, brisket, tomato soup casserole, fresh bagels and scallion cream cheese, the works. My grandmother would serve us breakfast and ask us what we wanted for lunch. We'd eat lunch and she'd ask, between bites, what we wanted for dinner.

So today, still, when I make oatmeal, I think of her. The kitchen fills with the milky, grassy smell of oats softening on the stove and I remember her mauve nails, her sensible shoes, her golden lipstick case.

Max grew up eating a different kind of oat soup, oats soaked in cold milk and eaten with a mashed banana. Just the thought of it makes me shudder, if I'm honest. The comfort, the smooth slip and tender bite in a bowl of hot cooked oatmeal is nowhere to be seen, just cold, sludgy bananas and soggy oats. But while my oatmeal came from my sweet Grandma, his cold oat soup came from his father and was served up with no less love or affection.

Anyway, I am of the school that believes in not wrinkling one's nose at the table at the other person's beloved meals. There's something sort of unfair about it, like being laughed at when your pants are down. Instead, I decided to try and see if I could get him to embrace oatmeal with some secret ninja stealth moves.

In other words, I cooked him some oatmeal, drizzled milk and maple syrup on top and tucked a few frozen blueberries in and around the steaming oats. Bam! A convert was made. Now Max gets up most mornings and cooks us oatmeal and it just tickles me to pieces, it really does.


I love the whole morning ritual of padding into the kitchen, getting the kettle for tea going, measuring oats and water into a pot and watching the two turn into this lovely, creamy cereal, steam rising reassuringly from various pots on the stove. In Good to the Grain (nominated for both an IACP and James Beard Award, people! Eeeep!), Kim Boyce writes about cooking oatmeal for her daughters most mornings and folding the leftovers, when there are any, into a barely sweet oat-flour pancake batter. And that is what was on my mind when I awoke this morning, little fingers of sunlight creeping across the sky still gray from the night before.

As I'm without both a gas stove and a cast-iron pan, the pancake-cooking situation in my kitchen isn't particularly satisfactory, so, while we're on the subject of gratitude and so forth, I think it would be lovely if you could give your gas stove a cuddle and a loving pat from me. Still, these pancakes are such lovely little things. Soft and tender and as wholesome as pancakes get, they pack a wallop (a gentle, soothing wallop) of pure oat flavor that tastes very nice if, for example, you use them to mop up a puddle of maple syrup in your plate. They don't leave that sort of strange heavy feeling in your belly that many pancakes do and I love that the oat flavor is what really shines here.

And best of all, you don't have to cook all of the batter all at once. We made enough for our breakfast, then put the rest in the fridge for tomorrow morning. Pancakes two days in a row! Scandalous. And wonderful. Lucky me.

Have a good weekend, folks.

Oatmeal Pancakes
Makes about 18 pancakes

3/4 cup oat flour (pulse 3/4 cup rolled oats into a food processor or spice grinder until finely ground)
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly (plus extra for the pan)
1 1/4 cups milk
1 cup cooked oatmeal*
1 tablespoon unsulphured (not blackstrap) molasses or 1 tablespoon honey
2 large eggs

1. Whisk the oat flour, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk the butter, milk, cooked oatmeal, honey and eggs together until thoroughly combined. Gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Using a light hand is important for tender pancakes; the batter should be slightly thick with a holey surface. Although the batter is best if using immediately, it can sit for up to 1 hour on the counter or overnight in the refrigerator. When you return to the batter, it will be very thick and should be thinned, one tablespoon at a time, with milk. Take care not to overmix.

2. Heat a 10-inch cast-iron pan or griddle over medium heat until water sizzles when splashed onto the pan. Rub the pan generously with butter. Working quickly, dollop 1/4-cup mounds of batter onto the pan, 2 or 3 at a time. Once bubbles have begun to form on the top side of the pancake, flip the pancake and cook until the bottom is dark golden-brown, about 5 minutes total. Wipe the pan with a cloth before griddling the next pancake. Continue with the rest of the batter.

3. Serve the pancakes hot, straight from the skillet or keep them warm in a low oven.

* Make oatmeal, if you don’t have any leftover: Bring 2 cups of water, 1 cup of rolled oats and a pinch of salt to a boil and simmer on low for 5 minutes. Let cool. You’ll have some extra oatmeal, which you can eat while you’re cooking.