Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"Luxury" Scones

Sometimes a certain food is just necessary. Not because you've got the craving for it (which I did), but because it fits the mood so perfectly (which it also did). I recently reserved a library book that finally came it, The Gentle Art of Domesticity. Lovely colors, cozy ideas. Also, my mom came down for a visit where we mostly sat knitting and crocheting on the couch in front of British films like Jane Austen's Persuasion and the Harry Potter movies.

That started a little niggling idea that I should have something baking that would come out buttery and perfect for tea. It just so happened that I also came across this scone recipe in the book. Coincidence or carefully orchestrated felicity? Either way, I hopped off the couch and threw these together.

I didn't add raisins in the recipe and though she says they make 9, mine made 5 hand-rolled scones. Beautiful, tender, flaky and so buttery. This is what I want when I reach for a biscuit, so this may be my new biscuit go-to. I'll add the fruity-crunchy bits for "scones". I find the best accompaniment to be barely softened unsalted butter and jam. I whipped out a jar of my mom's red plum jelly that was delicious. Perfect with my cup of tea, good company, and quiet entertainment.

Luxury Scones

From the Gentle Art of Domesticity
Makes 9

1 c self-rising flour (1 c AP flour + 1 1/2 tsp baking powder + 1/2 tsp salt)
pinch of salt (leave out if making rising flour)
2 tsp powdered sugar
1/3 c unsalted butter, coldish
1 large egg
2-3 T milk

-Preheat oven to 425F.

-Sift the dry ingredients together, then add the raisins if you're using them.

-In another bowl, whisk together the egg and 2 T of milk. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the egg mixture. Using a fork, quickly work the dry ingredients into the wet until it comes together. It will be damp and sticky. (Way more than I thought, actually. I needed emotional reinforcement from my mom.)

-Now, you can take the time and energy to roll them out and cut them on a lightly floured surface. Or you can make the most of a quick recipe and smush them into balls. Put on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes or until risen and golden on top.

- Cool for 5 minutes and smear with something lovely. They reheat surprisingly well, though the texture is a bit more chewy.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Smoky Pea Soup

Now I know that peas are some of the most notoriously hated vegetables ever to hit the plate, most notably due to a generation forced to eat the canned variety. However, I was not force-fed mushy green peas so I haven't developed any sort of loathing for them. In fact, I'd never formed an opinion of them at all since I think I can count on one hand the number of times I've ever tried them. But what is so inviting about little too sweet to be a vegetable, not sweet enough to be dessert, baby-shit green peas? Nothing, which is why I never tried them.

This isn't to say that my life would have been terribly unfortunate had I never tried them, but now that I know what they can do it would be terrible for you not to have the wisdom that I do now. I had my first taste of pea soup at a friend's wedding recently. This was no ordinary pea soup (or so I assume because it was AWESOME and no one complained) and I dedicated myself to replicating it. As luck would have it, the first pea soup recipe I tried hit the exact spot with just a few minor alterations.

This is a vegetarian pea soup (actually, it might be vegan too) that has a lot of give. I tried roasted garlic out of the gate with good results. This last time, I didn't bother to roast it and I could definitely tell. I'd like to try roasted garlic and caramelized onions too someday, but really any way you slice it things turn out well. Don't be afraid to substitute with this. I used beef instead of vegetable bouillon the first time and have been using sun-dried tomato pesto instead of sun-dried tomatoes. I've tried vinegar and lemon juice to similar effects as well. It's all up to you, but I think the smoked paprika is a must. The whole point is to have that smoky, hearty kick with subtly sweet peas and it's good without it, but just not the same soup.

Smoky Pea Soup

1 T olive oil
1 small onion, chopped or sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, minced or roasted and smashed
1 tsp dried basil
1 T sun-dried tomato pesto
1 chipotle pepper packed in adobo sauce (most of the sauce rinsed off it you don't want it too hot)
1 bay leaf
1 T vegetable bouillon (or any you have on hand)
1 T lemon juice or vinegar
1 tsp smoked paprika
dash of cumin
4 cups water
2 cups frozen english peas
1 tsp black pepper (or to taste)

Saute onion in the oil over med. heat until softened (or caramelized... oooh!). Add the garlic and cook until fragrant.

Dump in all the other ingredients except black pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook there for about 20 minutes.

Remove the bay leaf and chipotle from soup and let cool just a tad. Whiz through a blender then add pepper to taste. Eat and be merry.