12.21.12 New Age (& A Spicy Giveaway)
embrace the new
It's the winter solstice today. 12.21.12 is a date that's been the subject of much speculation. Apparently, the ancient Mayans predicted that this day would mark the end of our age— but must this really be interpreted as meaning the end of the world? I choose to believe the highly intriguing theory that this is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius! On this day, our sun and the earth cross the Milky Way galactic plane, an event that occurs once every 26,000 years. The axis of rotation of the Earth does not remain constant but wobbles in the same way that a spinning top does. This wobble has a rotation period of around 26,000 years. For a period of approximately 2,000 years, the earth's rotational axis, or north-south pole, points to a different constellation in the sky, each one corresponding to a sign of the zodiac. After 26,000 years the whole zodiac is traversed. So we are about to transition from the Age of Pisces to the Age of Aquarius. And with it comes greater freedom, equality, cooperation, collaboration and global consciousness. Reason will prevail over emotional reactions. We should prepare for greatness. As an Aquarian, I am elated to be living through this time. I think it calls for a celebration.
conserve your strength
Speaking of celebrating, I wrapped up most of my client work in preparation for the holidays (hooray!!) and spent yesterday in the kitchen, tackling various projects. Some have been on my to-do list for ages, others just piqued my interest of late. In the latter category is this gorgeous conserve
by the prolific preserver Mrs Wheelbarrow
, featured in this week's New York Times
. I had fresh cranberries but no raspberries on hand, so I substituted some summer strawberries I had frozen and it turned out great. I love the toasted pecans adding their richness and crunch to the jammy scarlet berries. It's the perfect thing to serve with your standing rib roast on Christmas.
nuts & berries
If you need a good source for pecans, I highly recommend you order them online from Inglewood Farm
in Louisiana. It's a family farm and the pecans are organically grown. They are big, plump and delicious, with a wonderful sweet snap to them.
You remember those nine pounds of apricots
I bought back in January? Well, I finally used almost half of them to make an enormous batch of fruit leather. I put them in my big copper jam pot, added a vanilla bean and loads of minced ginger and cooked it down with a bottle of elderflower cordial I made this past summer. Pureed and spread on parchment, it's dehydrating at this very moment.
For weeks and weeks I've had a big tub of duck fat in my fridge, tons of hardneck garlic and a deep desire to make garlic confit. Now it's done and I'm hugely satisfied. I cooked about 40 cloves of garlic at a very, very lazy simmer until meltingly tender, then put them in jars with a bay leaf, a chile de árbol and some sea salt I pounded with herbes de Provence (
a gift last year from these
dear friends). If you don't know about garlic confit, it's time you did. Sounds fancy, but it's super simple. The garlic softens and mellows as it cooks in the duck fat—or olive oil—and you leave it stored in the same, so it will keep for a few months in the fridge. Spread it on bread, stir it into mashed potatoes, use it in dips, slip it under chicken skin before roasting...there are few things it won't improve.
my gift to you
It was a real day of cooking joy and I think there will be more of those in my future. I so look forward to spending time with loved ones around the table at this time of year. I'd like to spread a little of this good feeling to you, dear readers, by offering a complimentary set of all three spices from La Boîte à Epices, currently offered for sale in the GFL shop
: Reims (crystallized honey, ginger and anise); Apollonia (cocoa powder, orange blossom and pepper) and Salvador (pimentón, saffron and seafood essence). These will surely inspire your culinary art well into the new year. Just leave a comment telling me what you dream of cooking these days and I will announce the winner next Friday the 28th.
Have a beautiful weekend! xo
Garlic Confit with Herb Salt
makes about three 1/2 pints
— 6 heads of garlic, cloves peeled
— 3 small bay leaves
— 3 small red chile, like chiles de àrbol
— 2 cups duck fat or good quality olive oil
— 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
— 1 1/2 teaspoons herbes de Provence
Combine all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan over very low heat. Bring to a very lazy simmer; a bit of scum may rise to the top, which you can skim off with a spoon. Cut a round of parchment paper and lay it on top to help keep the garlic submerged.
Cook, without browning, until the garlic is tender, about 30 minutes. Cool.
Pound together the sea salt and herbes de Provence with a mortar and pestle. Set aside.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the garlic, bay leaves and chiles to glass jars. Sprinkle a teaspoon of the herb salt on top of each. Pour the cooking fat or oil over to cover, seal the jars and refrigerate. Will keep for up to 4 months.