It's Horrid Outside: Potato & Onion Galette

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

-Rain, rain, go away. Come again another day. And when you do I will bake. Many tasty to things to make.-

It is horrid outside. "We need the rain in California," I say out loud to Eat Beast who stares towards the garden where the sky is apparently falling. Californians say this phrase to themselves and each other when it gets bad. I tell it to myself every Spring when it starts to come down so hard that the rivers threaten to wash out the many poorly conceived suburban sprawls incongruously built in the many flood plains here in Sacramento.

Listening to the peal of the rain striking the apartment I can’t help but go to the window and join the cat and look outside. The rain is blowing nearly horizontal and I’m worried about all the plants I just put into the ground. I’m praying they don’t get uprooted, broken, or drowned in all this. I fight the urge to check on them. Right now going outside for any reason is not only unappealing but insane It's true that we do need the rain. However, no one said anything about being happy about it.

A large crack sounds and a tree branch the size of a Harley from the nearby Eucalyptus suddenly crashes with a thunderous thud on top of the metal corrugated roof of the parking spots behind my fence. I stare at the branch and am relieved that it didn’t land in my yard on the baby tomatoes plants. Eat Beast's hackles are raised and a moment later he takes off to hide in the closet. And, with that, I decide that it’s time to dice up a stick of butter.

-And get a few other things ready as well.-

Pâte brisée, a fancy word for very buttery pie dough, is something I’ve become rather skilled at making. I learned how to make it from my friend, Elise, and with it gained from her some good advice about it. One particularly important tip is that at the first inkling I have of wanting to make a pie or galette you chop up some butter and toss it in the freezer. (Cold butter is key to flakey pie dough.)

I now whip out sticks of butter for dough at the slightest whim. Pining for an asparagus galette for dinner? I’m on it. Desiring some comfort food because your girlfriend dumped you for some ass with an emo haircut and a tribal band tattoo? Give me an hour and we’ll have pecan pie. Bored on a Friday night? Come to my house. We can whip together a fig and nut tart and do tequila and Serrano ham shots off the neighbor's stomach, and, yes, this is a thing that I did once in college.

Regardless of the situation, just let me butcher and freeze this butter and we'll be golden. Still, more often than not it's the chilling rain and winds that spur me to get down the food processor and get a bowl of ice water ready. I feel that pâte brisée, especially when baking and at its most fragrant, is the fatty, flaky antithesis of late Winter and early Spring storms. Shitty weather puts me in the mood for comfort food and right now something hearty and filling surrounded by crusty, golden, almost regrettably packed with too much butter crust sounds perfect.

I take a stick of butter and chop it up into ½-inch cubes before dropping them in the bowl and cram them in the freezer, teetering on a carton of ice cream between a vacuum-sealed duck and an opened bag of ice.

After about an hour of teasing the cat with his toys (the both of us feel this to be an hour well spent) I toss the butter along with some flour and salt into the food processor and pulse it a few times. This time I’m smart enough to cover with my hand that one spot on the processor where the top and base don’t quite meet. Forgetting to do that means a tall dusty plume of flour will shoot directly into my face like an old vaudeville gag. Usually - naturally - I only seem to forget when I have company or am wearing black. Its always humorous to everyone but me. I usually mutter out four or five f-bombs in a single sentence and change shirts.

-Seriously, though, the ferocity of my swearing is enough to make the bluest cheese blush.-

Once the butter has broken down to the size of peas a few tablespoons of ice water are dropped in and pulsed until the whole thing resembles a coarse meal that easily pinches together. It all gets loosely kneaded into a ball and wrapped up in plastic. The whole process take about 2 minutes. Wham, bam, thank-you-Sam for we have crust.

It chills out in the fridge while I chill out on the couch with the now tired Eat Beast who only occassioanally lifts his head in response to the wind taking down another tree branch. I read a book, he naps on my lap, the dough sets.

The rain continues to beat down on the windows and sounds of wind echo out the fireplace as if some disoriented Jabberwocky lost itself inside and was howling for assistance. Eat Beast tries not to show it but a flick of his ears in the direction of the threatening moan and the sharp pain of his nails gripping my leg tell me he's alarmed. It is tempting to investigate the sound a bit more but a good book and 15 pounds of cat keep me in place.

A little bit later I kick the fat puss off and I start digging through the pantry and fridge looking for whatever ingredients will make for a whatever-but-satisfying filling. As long as the final product tastes good and chases the gloomy overcast of the weather out of the apartment I really don’t care. I uncover a yellow onion, a red potato, some mustard, and some fresh thyme. The scraps from a wedge of Gruyere and some Maytag blue cheese also make the cut. Fine fillings for a savory galette.
-Any sort of cheese you might have on hand will be just fine for this.-

The onion gets thinly sliced and tossed into a skillet with some olive oil and ground pepper. While it sweetens and becomes golden in color like slivers of topaz I start slicing up the potato and shredding the cheeses. BF picks up the thyme and asks if he can help but I take it out of his hands and shoo him away. Stripping thyme is one of my favorite tasks in the kitchen. I enjoy how its aroma wraps around my head and makes me giddy, and I love how it lingers on my fingers for hours after. It reminds me that I was at least somewhat productive in my day. The dough gets rolled out, the fillings layered and tucked in, and I kick the oven door closed.

I slump back down on the couch and willfully ignore the responsibilities I know I should be attending too. The past few weeks have been overkill for me. Project after project, assignment after assignment, let alone the attempts to constantly resuscitate a social life and keep a healthy and active relationship with another human being and three cats have kept me busy.

Today’s depressing weather and that snap of the tree was enough to finish me off. I decided to play hookey from my life that day. I was going to read online comics while a galette bakes in the oven. My chores and have-to’s and To-Do lists would all be there tomorrow, but for now I plan to whip the beasts into their cages and lock the gates. They’ll be just fine left unattended for the day.

The galette finished and it smells like everything old fashioned cooking, warm, golden, and crinkled. It feels like the old fashioned type of cooking you always hear your grandparents wax on about. I imagine that if you could distill their frayed and ancient cookbooks into a flavor it would taste like this. Hot and crunchy, packed with herbs and with just the right tang from the cheeses.

I don’t know if this is French food, but it feels so rustic French countryside. It looks it at least. I imagine it tastes like some part of France I’ve never been to I’m proud of myself as French food isn’t my forte and imagine that Dorie Greenspan and Julia Child would both be quite proud of me.

Potato & Onion Galette Makes 1 Galette galette dough adapted from Simply Recipes
1 1/3 cup of all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
4 ounces (1 stick) butter, cut into cubes and frozen
1/4 cup of chilled water (plus a little more)
1 large red potato
1/2 onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
2 ounces blue cheese
3 ounces Gruyere
salt and pepper
Dijon mustard

1. Put the flour, salt, and sugar into a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse 9 times until the butter is in the size of peas. Slowly add the water while pulsing until the dough begins to form clumps and looks a bit like corn meal that pinches together easily. Empty the dough onto a clean surface, form into a ball with minimum handling. Pat down into a disc shape. Chill for at least an hour before rolling out.

2. Slice up the potato into 1/8-1/4-inch slices and set aside. Thinly slice the onion and toss in a saute pan with the olive oil, thyme, and some salt and pepper. Sauté until soft and lightly colored. Set aside to cool. Shred the Gruyere and crumble the blue cheese. Toss the potatoes, onion, and cheeses together and set aside.

3. Preheat oven to 375F. Roll out the dough out to 14-inches in diameter and of even thickness. Move to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Spread with a layer of mustard. Layer on the potato and onion mixture, leaving a 2 inch border. Fold in the 2-inch bordered edge over the filling and pleat the edges.

4. Bake for for 45-50 minutes or until crust is golden and the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork. Serve.

Dirty Work: Berry Cake with Thyme

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

-Pretty and picked by someone else.-

My parents did their best to garden and there were plenty of success stories that demonstrated their dedication. Aloe vera, pink thorn, roses of every saturated hue, and ice plant all grew in abundance in colorfully tiled terra cotta pots with relative ease. Looking at the front patio you would imagine my parents to have green thumbs attached to greener hands to match that desginer's eye they both seemed to share. Then again, growing plants native to Southern California's temperate climate was like shooting fish in a barrel with a bazooka. All we had to do was put the plant in some dirt and call it a day. We were guaranteed a lush and vibrant space to enjoy and entertain with.

Where they had difficulty, however, was with gardening food. (When it comes to difficulties, I'm not counting the dogs, who dug up the lawn and various flower beds with near a religious zealotry.)

A number of infant lemon trees were tortured to death with the utmost genteel concern for their well-being. Fed plenty of food, watered with precision, and ensured plenty of sun there was no practical reason for them to groan into a prolonged and probably agonizing death. However, year after year, all that was left sitting in a neatly stone-circled partitions on the back slope were their brittle skeletons crackling their bones against each other in the wind.

The tomatoes had even less success. Like obstinate little two years old they never did what they were told. They would remain stout and stubbornly die out of protest. Every year mom and dad fruitlessly did their best to cajole, bribe, and encourage those tomato plants to do better as if they were derelict family members who you knew, no matter what, were going to disappoint you.

Eventually, dad discovered the Early Girl variety of tomato. Once planted in the Orange County climate they grew voraciously and took over the beds like angry despots. Soon the new problem became fat, green tomato worms who ravenously gorged themselves on the leaves and fruits. My dad, frustrated at his inability to stop them and, I would guess, somewhat at his aging eyesight and therefore his inability to find them tasked my brother and I to hunt them down. Every sunny Saturday we would tenderly flush through the growth turning over every leaf searching for their bulging, yet well camouflaged, bodies. When we we found one we would place it on the red brick wall and violently crush it with a cinder block. Sometimes there were so many tomato worms that we would be able to paint nearly a quarter of the wall's top surface in a fine snot-colored paste.

-And if I found the bugs on this cake I would punish them just the same.-

It was cruel, but we were young boys doing what young boys did. Had it not been for killing of bugs the task would have been even more achingly boring and tiresome. I rarely spent my time outdoors, and while my brother seemed to inure himself to these menial bug hunts I found them insufferable.

I was not an outdoorsy child. However, this was not for the lack of my parents efforts. Years of month-long camping excursions and more than a few doomed hikes with one of the most rugged and unlucky Boy Scout troops to have ever been formed did nothing to change my attitude and demeanor. Rains followed our troop hikes like hungry cats mewling for a meal and more than once did someone misread the map resulting in drudging marches through some unheard of bog in the middle of the desert. I can't even tell you how many times I stepped into quicksand or fell into a swamp or had to chase away rattlesnakes. I was sure that my parents' desire to build character in me would result in my unfortunate and early demise. I often pictured the headlines, "Boy Scout Killed in Camp Tomahawk Throw. Parents Weep." or something equally dramatic, and hiked the rest of the way wondering who would attend my funeral and what they would say.

So, to the best of my ability, I avoided helping my parents garden. This worked out for everyone. I didn't bitch and moan and my parents didn't have to listen to me bitch and moan. It was the soil turnover days, however, I made a special effort to keep away my parents. Especially, dad.

Total avoidance was unlikely as eventually my mother would find me hiding under my bed reading before shooing me outside of the house and confiscating anything with written text on it. An action that, to me, seemed awfully irresponsible of a school teacher. As I was left to my own devices - usually, wondering how she kept her teaching license - I would see my dad with a shovel in his hands turning fresh compost and soil into the beds. The bone white concrete patio around him would be sullen with a coarse crumble of heady soil.

-I think he may have been trying to plant blueberries once or twice. Never. Saw. One.-

I hated the smell of the dirt. When I got close to it my nose and face immediately scrunched in on itself as if it were folding itself into an origami bird. The odor was too unlike the porcelain world I generally tried to remain a part of, one that smelled of lemon pledge and and baked scalloped potatoes from a box, and I found it to be musky and offensive.

Eventually dad would come across a potato bug crawling in the dirt, or as he referred to them, "God's ugliest fuckers," and he would toss it over his head in hopes that it would land in the pool with a satisfying splunk. I would sit there at the edge of the water watching them helplessly wriggle to the bottom where the would settle and, moments later, go motionless.

Admittedly, I enjoyed watching them die. After all, dad was right. They were God's ugliest fuckers. Why God would even create them I had no idea. Mom an dad seemed to agree that they did the world no good and that all they did was destroy their plants. I certainly never saw any birds eat them, though I guess birds found them as appetizing as I did. They seemed to serve no propose in the grand scheme of things so I morbidly cheered on the over-chlorinated death of each potato bug as they drowned.

What I hated about being outside with dad on turnover days, though, was that when I was around he found it far more entertaining to toss them at me. He would slyly pretend to look at his work making show with his spade until I looked away and busied myself upsetting a trail of ants or trying to make a whistle out of a stem of grass. Then once I was no longer preoccupied with cataloguing his movements like a type-A dance instructor (because, honestly, how long can a twelve year old with ADD fixate on a single activity?) he would toss the potato bug across the yard like a beanbag toy and let it bop me on the head.

-As a kid I did, however, manage to grow strawberries in a strawberry pot. Child Garrett: 1. Bug Tossing Father: 0.-

Looking down I would see the poor thing squirming on the ground in panic. Knowing what happened, even realizing it wasn't even on me, I would scream and freak out like a crack-addled six year old girl. I danced and yelped, swatting my entire body as if someone has covered me with spiderweb and lit it on fire.

I assume this both upset and entertained him. He knew I was never going to grow up to be a sports star in high school, or a clinical psychologist like he was, or powerful businessman like his father like he so wanted. I was too cerebral in nature and effeminate in my mannerisms, but he was proud to have at least tempered that with plenty of hikes, pinewood derby competitions, and outings blasting shotguns and killing scores of clay pigeons. Still, had I been rougher, there was no way he would have been able to laugh at my falsetto reaction.

His sense of humor remains a mystery to me. What made him laugh was often irreverent and somewhat nebulous. His mustachioed grin and eyes squeezed shut, his laugh was light and short like my own. Yet I never could seem to understand how to elicit it. It was a dartboard and all I could do was throw, though over the years my aim has improved greatly.

But at me he would laugh at his comic use of insects and sons. I would curse him out as well as a child who didn't know how to swear (at the time I didn't know that fuck was a cuss word, just an adjective for potato bugs) before grabbing it between by thumb and pointer finger and pitifully lobbing it at him. The poor thing would land on the hard concrete and squirm a bit in an effort to recover before dad kicked him into the pool along with the rest of his doomed kin.

-Look at the cake. Do not think about gross potato bugs. Only cake.-

These days, I garden myself. In fact, I enjoy it. Even better is that I have yet to encounter a single potato bug in Northern California. (And, If I eventually do, I will smite it with the wrath of a thousand angry gods since they can't fight back like a preying mantis.)

Just the other day was our turnover day. It seems odd, nearly upsetting, that I look forward to something that I used to take great pains to avoid. Then again, I seem to have more luck with my vegetables than my parents did so the incentive is more palpable. Upon reflecting it becomes even stranger still just how much my personality has changed since I was a kid, yet at the same time its core has probably become only more stubbornly resistant and to some degree or another will always remain the facetious, curious, slightly egotistic, introverted child I was.

Though I apprciate the changes. It's allotted me the chance to grow tomatillos and eat salsa verde for months and given me an appreciation for cake. As a kid, I wasn't a big cake fan. My parents, rightly so, wondered what was wrong with me. I do too.

This particular cake is pretty darn easy and a fragrant way to break up your little gardening party. It's styled in a simple-cobbler, spoon-bread sort of way and loaded with thyme. Thyme, if you haven't tried it in sweets before, is fabulous with fruit. I by no means exaggerate when I call it a life changing combination either, as it was a thyme, peach, and blueberry cake the persuaded me to first try my hand at baking. I find that this cake is better than that one. It takes no time to throw together, either. Just pop it in the oven, attend to your roses or baby tomato plants, and when the oven timer dings you can stomp the mud off your boots and spoon some of it on to a plate. A healthy pour of heavy cream or eager scoop of vanilla ice cream won't do you any wrong either.

Then go, sit, and enjoy the cake and whatever dirty work that you earned it with. Just avoid the potato bugs.

Berry Cake with Thyme
Serves 6-8
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

1 stick butter, melted
1 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 t salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup blueberries
1 cup strawberries, quartered

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly butter a large ceramic baking dish. Use something bigger than a 9x9 baking dish. If that's all you have then increase the cooking time. However, bigger is better. I used an 11-inch pyrex casserole dish.

2. Melt the butter and set aside to cool. In a separate bowl whisk together 1 cup of sugar along with the flour, salt, baking powder, and thyme. Whisk in the milk and vanilla extract. Pour in the butter and whisk until incorporated. Pour the batter into the baking dish. Add the fruit. You may have to poke some of it down to fit it all. Evenly sprinkle on the surface the additional 2 tablespoons of sugar.

3. Bake at 350F for an hour. The top should be dark golden. Cool for ten minutes on a wire rack. Serve hot, warm, or cold. Preferably with ice cream.

The Chocolate Chip Heresy: Buckwheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

-Try not to freak out on me. Just keep control.-

I'm not sure if admitting what I plan to admit will ruin my pastry reputation. I'm afraid that my baking teachers won't allow me the chance to justify myself before deleting me from their phones and that fellow baking bloggers are going to write me scathing e-mails. Any other foodie will disavow ever having met me.

Even you, dear reader, may become quite upset. You may take what I'm about to say personally or as an affront to your family and friends whose baking skills you so admire. I may even offend your sense of taste. Possibly so much that it will shatter and that the resulting chasmic void inside you will be filled with the anger of demonic chefs from the abysmal inferno whose only desire is for the blood of a blasphemer such as I to be spilled.

If that happens, don't worry. I understand. In certain cases I'm sure I would do the same.

Generally, though, I think most people involved in the creation of desserts have personalities as sweet as the tarts they bake. I simply hope you will bear with me long enough so that I can explain myself.

And, so, I make my admission: I love the Nestle Tollhouse cookie recipe.

Love it.

And - here is the part I felt the need to warn you about - I think it is unequivocally the best chocolate chip cookie recipe out there.

*please feel free to rage, troll, roll your eyes, scoff, and turn off your computer at this point*

-Pictured: Delicious heresy.-

Let me start out by saying that this recipe is the one that I grew up with. In fact, it is the first recipe I ever learned. My mom would gather up my brothers and me and she would have us cracking eggs and measuring sugar while teaching us how to properly turn on the oven and use oven mitts.

Throughout the process I would steal fingerfulls of cookie dough when my mom wasn't looking; though I'm pretty sure she knew it was happening. Even so, she would still let me lick the beaters clean once the dough was all scooped. She may have simply been wanting to keep us busy or needed satisfy her own cookie cravings, but I truly believe it was these lazy Saturday afternoons in the kitchen that instilled me a desire to cook. For me, this recipe defined my childhood as much as scraped knees and my attempts to haggle a better price with the toothfairy. ($5 on the last one!)

Knowing this, many of my friends have argued to me that it isn't the flavor of these cookies that I adore, but rather the nostalgia (one of life's greatest spices). I've considered this and must sternly disagree.

Take my mom's tacos. My mom makes amazing tacos. They're some of the best I've ever eaten; spicy, meaty, loaded with cheese, and lightly fried (yes, we fried our tacos). However, one vacation I had some tacos at a roadside in Zihuatanejo that can only be called epic. The tacos were filled with chunks of beef that had been marinated in lime juice and chilies, and the tortilla could barely contain the freshly cut cabbage and tiny boulders of cotija. After one bite I knew that never again would I have a better taco. Nostalgia makes my mom's tacos quite awesome and brings about sighs for simpler times, but nostalgia doesn't make them the best tacos I've ever had.

Not like these cookies.

I've gone through and tested other recipes. For example, when David Leite purported in the New York Times to have the best chocolate chip cookie recipe ever the food blog world went mad with home tests and comparisons. I did my own test and found that they were quite riveting with flavor. I appreciated the butterscotch flavor and flecks of salt of his cookie recipe, but no chocolate chunk epiphany had I. It still wasn't the Tollhouse.

(Incidentally, I'm one of David Leite's biggest fans. The man is an epic writer, comic genius, and skilled baker. Plus, he's one of the sassiest people I know and I appreciate genuine sass. If you're ever lucky enough to have lunch or a conversation with him you're in for a real treat.)

I tried recipes from every other cookbook and blog. Most tasted fine, some were amazing, and only a few were truly disappointing, but none quite matched up. Like a sugar-junkie Goldilocks I dismissed each for subjective reasons. This recipe is too crunchy. This one has too much chocolate. This one has too little salt. I still adamantly stand by my assessments.

-Goldilocks can keep her stupid porridge.-

For me, there was only one recipe that was just right.

In past years I've only made two changes to the Tollhouse recipe. The first is that I always add the baking soda separately from the flour. This results in a softer cookie. (Please, do not ask me why. I have been trying to figure this one out forever. Any chemists reading this please contact me.)

The second change I made is to always let the dough rest for 24 hours. David Lebovitz once advised me to do this and I have never gone back. The flavors have a chance to meld and deepen, which results in a more caramel flavor to the cookies.

These changes effectively make the Tollhouse recipe the Garrett House recipe, but so be it. The changes are so minor I hardly consider them changes at all.

It was only yesterday I made some drastic alterations, though not by intention but necessity. Partway through the recipe - the butter and sugars creamed and the eggs beaten in - I realized I was short about 1/2 cup of flour.

Panic set in. What to do!? Yes, I could run to the store, but damn, I was too lazy! I could send BF but he was playing video games and I had a better chance of success of sending Eat Beast with a note and some change tied to his collar. (And Eat Beast would probably eat the bag of flour anyways.)

-Incidentally, Eat Beast made off with this exact cookie the second I stepped away to get a different lens for the camera.-

Spontaneously, and without much consideration, I decided to substitute some buckwheat flour. I reasoned that it might make for an interesting change and give the cookies a bit more of a nutty flavor.

Of course, the result of this substitution also meant a reduction in the number of gluten bonds in the cookie, and, therefore, the cookies would likely spread a bit more. To counter this I also decided to freeze the dough into logs and then slices them into discs before baking.

See? Drastic. Near cataclysmic changes to the Tollhouse recipe! If this recipe were a movie directed by Michael Bay this would be the part where everything explodes.

That is, assuming that explode means explode in a fiery ball of buckwheaty deliciousness. The addition of the buckwheat seemed to highlight the toasted pecans and acted as a rugged backdrop to the chocolate by exemplifying its earthier flavors. The cookies themselves were soft in the middle and the crisp edges had a pleasant sandiness to couldn't be achieved with using just all-purpose flour.

A satisfying snap and good chew, plus plenty of flavor make these my new favorite chocolate chip cookie. This was a chocolate chip cookie that was just right.

Buckwheat Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Nestle and from David Lebovtiz' Room for Dessert
Makes 4 dozen

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted

1. Whisk together the flours and salt, and set aside. With an electric mixer cream together the butter, sugars, and vanilla on medium speed being sure to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating each in for thirty seconds. Add the baking soda and mix in. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until just incorporated. Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts.

2. On a lightly floured surface divide the dough into quarters and shape each quarter into a log about 9-inches long. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for 24 hours.

3. Preheat oven to 350F. Slice the logs up into discs about 3/4-inch thick. Place them about three inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes or until the tops are lightly browned. Cool on the sheets for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Saturday Morning: Vanilla-Maple Granola

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

-Up and at them, George McFadden. It's daylight in the swamp!-

“Wake up.”

It’s eleven o’clock and BF is still under the covers trying to sleep. “Trying” is the key word as by this time on a Saturday I, Roommate, and the cats are all going about our business. The cats are bouncing all over the place running into one room to stop and freak out before dashing to the next, I’m usually cooking with reruns of Sex and the City or Xena blasting in the background, and Roommate may or may not be on the phone loudly chattering away like a chipmunk with a megaphone.

This morning might be exceptionally hard for BF as I sit on his stomach and grin at him, plodding him to finally get out of bed. Of course, it isn’t as bad as the mornings where I rush in in an exaggerated chipper attitude, yank open the curtains to let the light in, and beam in a sing-songy voice, “Rise and shine! It’s a beautiful day! It’s the first day of the rest of your life!” and so on. I’m like Julie Andrews on ecstasy. It is hilarious. At least to me.

My mom did this way too many times to me as a child to wake me up for school. Generally, I would just roll over and throw the covers over my head and dream of her falling down a well. If she was really in the mood to harass me she would go the extra step and whip the covers off me and barrage me with kisses, and hugs, and affirmations of how much she loved me. By that point the only thing I was self-affirming was matricide.

As an adult though, yes, being on the giving end of this is endlessly fun.

BF, however, just sort of gives me empty look and sighs. He resigned himself to my eccentricities some time ago. Now he just puts up with it and settles for getting me back at some point when he’s more awake. This usually takes the form of waking me up in some terrifying manner (that time he pretended to be a burglar easily chopped a few years off my lifespan) or creeping up on me and swatting me on the butt hard with enough force to cause physiscits to study us.

Lucky for me, I have food to mollify him.

-Open wide!-

“Open,” I command while pushing food into his face.

“What is it?” he yawns. He scrounges his face trying to adjust his eyes and analyze what is being forced on him.

‘Questions, questions. Too many questions. When I have ever fed you something weird by surprise?” (Weird with warning, yes, many times. Never by surprise.) “Now eat.”

He opens and I pop it in his mouth. He begins to chew and I leave before even getting a response.

I know that he is no longer annoyed. In fact, he’ll probably, finally, wake up and start his day like the rest of us.

“It’s homemade granola!” I shout back before he can ask what it is.

-I mean, really, isn't it obvious what it is?-

I plop back on the couch to watch some more TV as I wait for the granola to cool. The recipe is one of the best out there as far as I’m concerned. I strong-armed it out of one of the line cooks at Grange during my internship there before taking it home and tinkering with it a bit. A bit of vanilla bean, some orange zest, and heavy hand of coconut makes it one of the simplest and most epic recipe in my repertoire. In fact, this granola is downright addictive, which is why I don’t make it all the time. Otherwise, I would be fat from oats and dried fruit.

A few minutes later BF stumbles into the kitchen and begins hunting for the top of the French press. Depending on who unloaded it the night before it can be in one of three places. Today it’s behind the coffee cups. I feel it’s a logical place as opposed to next to the wine glasses where BF puts it, or next to the coffee where Roommate thinks it’s most appropriate. After finding it he puts some water in the kettles and sets it to heat before turning and looking at the tray of cooling cereal.

“That was good granola,” he mumbles out and smiles. He grabs a handful and heads out to the patio for his morning e-cigarette session.

“FANK-voo!” my mouth full of milk and granola. My parents would be so proud to see how those etiquette classes sunk in.

A few minutes later we both sit down for lunch to a bowl of granola and raw, whole milk from the Farmers’ Market. We pop on an episode of Family Guy and let the cats come cuddle up and get a proper start on another Saturday.

Vanilla-Maple Granola

4 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup almonds, chopped
3/4 cup flaked coconut
3/4 cup maple syrup
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out
2 T orange juice
2 T orange zest
3/4 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup dried apricots

1. Preheat your oven to 350º and adjust the top rack to the middle of the oven. Place the oats, coconut, and almonds in a large bowl. Whisk together the maple syrup, vanilla bean seeds and pod, orange juice and zest, and brown sugar in a saucepan and place over medium heat until almost smooth.

2. Pour syrup mixture over oats and stir gently to combine and the oats are well coated. Spread out onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil. Bake for twenty minutes. Cool completely. (If some of the granola is still sticky and wet bake it for another 7-10 minutes.) Break into pieces and add the dried fruit. Store in an airtight container.

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