I think it was January 2019 when Epicurious launched the Cook90 challenge, challenging home cooks to prepare 3 meals a day at home for an entire month. I’m not one for that type of challenge so I never participated. However, this morning, as I updated my kitchen chalkboard where I keep track of the day of the week, date, number of days/weeks/months “safer at home”, and the recently added election countdown, I realized that as a result of the pandemic, I’ve been doing that challenge unexpectedly. As of yesterday, I’ve successfully completed Cook166 and will continue for the foreseeable future.
That’s almost 500 meals! I’ve ordered takeout 5 times (our favorite BBQ restaurant in Boston, the local Thai and Chinese restaurants, lunch from the local Italian place, and a fancy dinner from a place in Cambridge), but Howard or I have prepared the rest. Fortunately, we both enjoy cooking. We started with a well-stocked pantry and freezer, and we haven’t experienced food shortages in our area. Since June, we’ve been well supplied with fresh produce from our CSA share and our backyard garden. Cooking is a great diversion: conversations about what to eat for the next few meals and creative substitutions to avoid shopping, togetherness as we prepare and eat the food, and the satisfaction of being able to take care of ourselves.
Anyone who has followed my blog for a while knows, Howard and I don’t always agree on what to eat. He has lots of rules about what he does and does not consider edible combinations. The zucchini and eggplant in our CSA share present a challenge because I enjoy them and he absolutely will not eat. I’m running out of easy ways to prepare these vegetables that will last a while. Suggestions anyone?
Fruit has its own set of rules that seem to change constantly. Blueberries used to be on the “do not fly” list. That started to relax when we had wild blueberries on our property in Maine. And now that the bushes we planted in the backyard have started to produce, fresh blueberries have become acceptable for breakfast. They also moved up a rung as an acceptable addition to a baked fruit tart, though not when featured as the main event. However, I don’t see cake, such as this week’s Cook the Book Fridays recipe for Blueberry-Buttermilk Bundt Cake, as ever passing muster.
I, on the other hand, enjoy cake with fruit. I don’t make it often because, without an off-site occasion to share, I’d be eating the cake singlehandedly. Some would find it hard to believe, but I like a cake with fruit much more than a chocolate cake.
I considered making a half-batch as mini-Bundts. However, this recipe had an odd number of eggs, which is not an insurmountable problem, but a deterrent. Also, Dorie mentioned that the cake is prone to sticking to the pan. I didn’t really want to multiple that issue by six (for each mini cake). So I made the whole thing.
I’m so glad I did. Blueberry season is over in my yard, so I had to buy the berries, but everything else is always on hand. This cake came together so easily. I greased the pan VERY GENEROUSLY and had no issue with it sliding right out. The crumb is tender and moist, and the underlying flavors (butter, vanilla, and lemon) along with the berries scream of summer. I think this cake would be delicious made with other berries as well: raspberries, blackberries or a combination. I still can’t eat the whole thing myself, but I’ll freeze some in chunks for later.
I also made the Ricotta Spoonable, the selected recipe for Cook the Book Fridays from earlier in the month. I made it on time but didn’t get around to writing about it. I need to remember to use Instagram for weeks like those. This creamy spread reminded me of recipes I’ve made before, maybe even as part of this cooking group. Ricotta is enhanced with lemon juice and zest, shallots, scallions, and fresh herbs. It can be used as a spread for crostini. I intended to dollop most of it on pasta I made with cherry tomatoes and corn and serve the rest as crostini the next day. Unfortunately, the container dropped and cracked (OK, I admit that I dropped it), and I was only able to rescue enough for the pasta. It was nice, but not a definite repeater (though maybe).
If you’d like to try either of these recipes, they can be found in Dorie Greenspan’s book Everyday Dorie. The ricotta is on page 22 and the cake on page 254. You can’t go wrong with either. Impressions on the recipes from my Cook the Book Fridays friends can be found here for the ricotta and here for the cake.
Tea is my caffeinated drink of choice. I drink cups and cups of tea everyday. My favorite is Extra Bergamot Earl Gray from Upton Teas. I’ll have an occasional espresso drink on the run. I don’t really care for plain old coffee, though I’ll sometimes order it in restaurants because the way most restaurants serve tea is abysmal. Don’t even get me started…
In the afternoon (or sometimes mid-morning), a cup of tea wants a little bite to accompany it. I think this is what scones were invented for. I like them just a little bit sweet and crumbly.
I’m constantly trying new scone recipes. My goal is to some day settle on two base recipes, one using cream or milk and the other with buttermilk. That way I can accommodate the current dairy supply in my refrigerator. My choice of mix-ins can always be combined into either dough.
I have a variety of flours in the pantry, most of them from Bob’s Red Mill, leftover from various recipe experiments. A local grocery store (though my least favorite one around) stocks a large inventory his products. I will visit that store for flour.
My recent favorite is buckwheat flour. I’ve been substituting it for some of the regular flour in assorted baked goods. I like the earthy undertone it adds, and the slightly purple color of the end product.
With a recent excess of blueberries, picked next to the dock of our Maine cottage, I had blueberry scones on my mind. Using some buckwheat flour gave my scones the rustic look I had in mind.
When you’re in the neighborhood, you’re always welcome to stop by and join me for a cup of tea, a scone (or two), and a chat!
Rustic Blueberry Scones
1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup buckwheat flour
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1/3 cup sugar
10 Tbsp (1¼ sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut in to ½-inch pieces
1 large egg
6 Tbsp buttermilk
¾ tsp vanilla extract
¾ tsp almond extract
1 cup blueberries, rinsed and dried
Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Measure the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into the food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse corn meal. (You can process about 10 seconds before starting to pulse, if you’re not that patient.). Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.
In a separate bowl, lightly whisk the eggs. Add buttermilk and extracts and whisk to combine. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and stir just until the flour is incorporated. Add the berries and stir gently to combine.
For each scone, scoop about ¼ cup of dough onto the baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. I use an ice cream scoop that’s about this size.
Bake the scones for 15-20 minutes, until the tops are brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry. Remove from the oven and let them sit for about 5 minutes on the baking sheet. Then transfer the scones to a rack to cool further, or just eat them warm!
I find that scones freeze well. If I take one from the freezer in the morning, it’s defrosted and ready for a quick toasting in the oven later in the day.
* Note that Bob’s Red Mill is a sponsor of the International Food Blogger Conference that I am attending later this week. In exchange for a discounted rate, I’ve agreed to write some blog posts about the conference and its sponsors. However, I purchased the flour myself and I’ve expressed my honest opinions in this post.