Hearth and Home

Deliciousness: Apple Blackberry Crumble

It’s Friday evening and whew, what a week it’s been. Feeling a bit stretched thin and fraying, and it’s chilly outside. I don’t want to look at any more words or images or think…I just want to feel and smell and live in my senses a little bit. It’s kind of a perfect night to bake, no? I’m not a natural baker, but I play one in my dreams, and I’ve been experimenting with different recipes. There’s just something really nice about a warm oven at night, all the smells of apples, brown sugar, maple, melting butter and other delicious things filling up the room.

One thing I’ve been trying out lately are crumbles. I started reading about them a few weeks ago, when I looked something up about Michaelmas. I was going through this phase of reading about random British holidays and festivals and came across this bit about Sept. 29, when they celebrate the archangel Michael. In terms of paganish things, it occurs around the autumn equinox, and generally denotes the end of harvest and the beginning of fall proper. I’m not Christian or ever will be, but I have always found the whole seraphim and cherubim thing really fascinating — one of those weird rabbit holes of theology to wander around in on a rainy evening at home with some tea and an iPad. I mean, you know, all I had as a kid was the Buddha, and he seemed really intense and remote, a bit like the monks at the temple my parents took me to as a kid. Now angels, though…angels were understandable. They were on Christmas cards! They had iconography! Then as a teen I got the Smiths, so I was all British! British! British! Somehow it all comes together…in an apple-blackberry crumble.

(Funny aside: one of my friends as a wee kid told me once that she imagined Michael as this strong strapping dude with flowing hair, and I kind of pictured Lorenzo Lamas from “Falcon Crest.” Which is of course hilarious to me now.)

Anyway, if you read about Michaelmas and archangels, there’s a bit about Michael wrestling the devil and the devil landing in a bramble of blackberry bushes, and so one of the big Michaelmas traditions is to eat blackberries. Of course, you can eat blackberries on their own, but it is infinitely way more fun to eat them as dessert. (If I could make everything into a dessert or an omelette, I’d be so ace.)

And so I stumbled upon a bunch of delicious-sounding (and looking) blackberry dessert recipes in various cookbooks devoted to traditional British desserts, and decided to try one out. I mean, maybe it’s my weird way of being fascinated by angels and blackberries and deepening my resolve to broaden my culinary repertoire. Or just an excuse to try out a dessert! Anyway, here’s to wrestling devils and throwing them WWF-style into a bramble of blackberries! Enjoy!


Ratatouille for Lazy Busy People

In Which I Make a Favorite Early Fall Dish Using A Slow Cooker

My mother gave me a slow cooker last year, and it’s slowly but surely found its way into my culinary repertoire. You just chop up a bunch of stuff, throw it in, leave it alone for a few hours and boom! Food! I find meals made in a slow cooker in the fall and winter feel really cozy and comforting, so this season I made a resolution to discover more slow-cooked meals to add to my “rotation.”

This ratatouille recipe is what I think of as a “harvest” meal. All the fruits and veggies are pouring in, right before the season of squashes and potatoes, and what you have are lots of tomatoes, bell peppers and zucchinis galore. It’s priced to sell at the grocery store because it’s so plentiful, so I love to buy this kind of produce up. Ratatouille is a really nice way to use up an over abundance. I’ve had all kinds of ratatouille, from country stew-type of ones to more casserole-consistency. And they’ve all been good.

This particular recipe is the simplest one I’ve found. Here, the slow cooking really works to its advantage — slow-cooking the tomatoes really brings out the flavor, and you don’t even need a lot of oil. (Promise!) I found this in, believe it or not, that book French Women Don’t Get Fat. I thumbed through it at the airport bookstore a few years ago and this recipe caught my eye — it looked so unbelievably simple that even I could make it! So I surreptitiously jotted the recipe down, and when I got back to NYC, I made the dish — and I’ve been making it for years now. (I gank a surprising number of recipes this way, it’s so bad — just go to the library or bookstore, find a cookbook, find the one thing that I can manage and then scribble all the ingredients and steps down!) The original recipe called for it to cook over very low heat on the stove in a large stockpot, but I adapted it to the slow cooker. I think it transfers nicely.

It’s a superbly versatile dish, too. You first eat it as a thick and hearty soup, but the leftovers can be a satisfying omelette filler, a side dish to grilled or broiled chicken or fish, then sauce to a pasta dish and finally as a pizza topping. (Just throw on top of a flatbread or naan, top with some cheese and perhaps some more veggies and then stick it in the oven.) Anyway, the recipe is below…happy slow-cooking!

Baked Kale Chips Are My Jam

After basically a month and a half of weird yet challenging physical ailments — and all the sometimes mind-altering medications that come with it — I’ve been trying to eat pretty cleanly in the past few days in an effort to clear all that stuff out of my system. Not quite a detox, though I’m trying to hit the steam room and sauna at the gym more often, as well as be super-good about getting green smoothies in the morning. (I have always loved my green smoothies, so it’s no hardship, really.) I don’t really like fasting much — I know people who’ve done it and swear they love it, but I like food and eating. I like chewing! I really think you don’t have to be all drastic to clean out your system — it just takes a little more time and patience, and a lot of water as well. You could call it a lazy lady way to detox, but I think it’s just sort of a nice, normal, human way of helping your body do what it would do naturally.

I don’t find it a terrible hardship to avoid processed foods and refined flour-y stuff for a few days — it’s easy enough to eat lots of fruits, veggies and lean protein, though I always do cheat a bit with a bit of cheese. And I always do crave a salty, savory snack, too. For ages I’ve been on the lookout for a healthy snack food that isn’t fried, something that isn’t a cracker or a chip. People had recommended nuts, and while they’re nice enough, they don’t quite do it for me — they’re just not snack-y enough! But then I found a recipe for baked kale chips, and they’re just about perfect for me: salty, crispy and yet healthy! And very simple to make. I found a few different recipes, but this is the one that works for me and my oven.


On Bedside Tables

I love pictures of bedside tables — I think there’s something so tender and intimate about seeing what people sleep in close proximity to. I’m not a religious person, now or ever in the past. And though I’ve always had a sense of something larger, grand and immense out there, I’m loathe to call myself spiritual since I don’t have a daily “practice” of anything. (Except maybe hygiene.) But my bedside table has always functioned as a kind of unintentional altar, carving out space for what I treasure and cherish — things I find comforting and remind me of the larger, more eternal matters of my life, which is apt to get mired in lots of ultimately unimportant minutiae.

What’s on your bedside table? Here’s the current state of mine. There’s always reading matter nearby: I like to read fiction in bed, as well as non-leftbrained-centric nonfiction. Being in bed makes me feel relaxed and dreamy, so I don’t want to read anything that takes me out of that zone. (There’s a copy of Lula magazine in that pile somewhere, too — again on the dreamy tip!) I always keep my journal on my bedside table as well. I’m always writing down dreams and love letters to the universe in there. Of course, every altar needs candles, and I have a few. To be completely hippie-ish, I read that it’s nice to have spots of dark red in the bedroom for all kinds of love-and-passion-ish reasons. I figure, what have I got to lose? Plus, these smell like orange blossom, black cherry and rosewood. There’s a tiny candle, too, that has my favorite room scent in all the world: black pepper and bergamot. It’s just so warm and subtly spicy and fills me with contentment when I smell it. It’s important to feel content in bed, you know?

I keep a copy of The Little Prince as well — that book is just so wonderfully open-hearted and good-spirited, and reading it always reminds of the better things in life. Every time I read it, I feel like a better person. There’s a tiny piece of artwork by artist Andrea Anderson that I got from an art show at erstwhile NYC accessories boutique Clarabella, which is now closed. The image has always resonated me, in a High Priestess of the Tarot card deck kind of way — it evokes something about the Divine Feminine for me, and if there’s ever going to be something I’m going to align myself with, it’s that. And the photograph is taken by my friend Megan of the lilies at Monet’s estate, which I keep because it reminds me of her, and it just feels so peaceful and serene.

Oh! And there’s also a tiny little bottle of Lancome Miracle eau de parfum — it reminds me of my mother, and also of the time when my old roommate in San Francisco bought me a bottle in the first few months of me living there. I was struggling to establish myself and joked that it would take a miracle to find steady work. (The whole dot-com bubble bursting was happening at that time.) She, being the kind soul she is, bought me a bottle to lift my spirits, and lo and behold, a few weeks later I found a client that I still have to this day, actually. So I like to keep a tiny bottle of Miracle to remind me of generosity and the universe’s largesse. And finally, there’s a picture of me and my sweetheart, well, because love is transcendent, and where else are you supposed to put bits of transcendence in your house if not unintentional altars? You should never be far from what you love, and I love that these are the first things I see in the morning, and the last things I take in before I wander into dreams and sleep.


Everyone, just a quick note to say THANK YOU SO MUCH to those who bought , linked to it, tweeted, liked and all the other Internet-enabled gestures that people do to support things these day. I truly appreciate it and feel so surprised and humbled by how kind and generous people are! Please keep your eye on the blog this Thursday or Friday, where I have something fun to announce