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I made this last year (as you’ll see by my old kitchen table) and then forgot to post it until it was well past mincemeat season. And although I only have one mediocre photo I didn’t want to lose it altogether – it’s so delicious, and different from any other cookie or bar I’ve made. It’s more bar than pie, despite its wedge shape, and the rubble of butter, sugar, flour and almonds that make up the base and topping is the perfect vehicle for all kinds of preserves, lemon curd, fig jam – you name it. But I particularly like it as a means of getting mincemeat to my mouth without having to bother with tarts. And I imagine it’s not just me left with half a jar of mincemeat in my fridge this week.

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OK. Since everyone is so grinchily anti-fruitcake – and Christmas pudding is essentially dark fruitcake – how about a nice moist, sticky toffee pud? This one is baked, so you don’t have to mess about with a pudding mold and cheesecloth and steaming… technically it’s more of a cake, but what’s in a name? It’s milder than gingerbread, loaded with soft dates and fragrant pear and doused in caramel, which should make everyone suitably jolly. Traditional sticky toffee pudding is made with dates – I’m a fan of the big, soft, sticky Medjool dates you can find in the produce section of most grocery stores; they’re nothing like the hard, dried-out dates of my childhood, or the bricks of dates you can still find in the baking section that require chiseling with a kitchen implement. They’re simmered with water, then added to a basic butter-sugar-egg mixture along with a grated pear – it’s that time of year when I buy too many pears, which thenContinue reading

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Tonight, I bring you a special PSA in the form of Nutella brownies. I’ll be brief; there’s no need for superfluous words and platitudes when they so clearly speak for themselves. Everyone’s busy. (Can you tell I was painting today?) But we still need to bake, right? It’s an hour until December… it’s officially baking season, whether I have a hood fan and backsplash or not. (Not.) When it’s thirty below outside, the best way to warm the house is by oven – I’ve discovered if you put it on your to-do list, it feels like you’re accomplishing something. I’ve seen these drifting around the internet: 3 ingredients = Nutella brownies. All good. They’re as easy as they say – under 10 minutes of actual stirring, and one bowl to wash, which is a good thing when you need something delicious but don’t have a day to dedicate to baking.

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blue rodeo pumpkin pie 2
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I’ve never been particularly fond of pumpkin pie – and certainly not as overjoyed by it as most people seem to be – and so I’ve always had my usual I don’t bother to stray from. People like it, and so I make at least one a year to appease the pumpkin pie lovers, not really thinking to change it up a bit – inspired more by the apple pie I make for myself. But I think I might have a new usual – a deep-dish extravaganza courtesy of Blue Rodeo, towering higher than a cheesecake on a crust of – get this – maple sandwich cookies. This is a Very Good Idea.

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Plums are in. Not in fashion, but in the market. Although my tongue for food is far more developed than my eye for fashion, and I’d love a pair of pants or some wallpaper in dusty prune plum. Right? These came to be the morning after a particularly late night, when a small group of fun people gathered for a cooking class and sleepover at a beautiful retreat out in the foothills, and I was in charge of feeding everyone breakfast. We fired up the pizza oven, which was still warm from the night before, and baked a frittata, and roasted plums with butter, sugar and rosemary from the pot outside the window, and sliced a few more to turn into tarts just by baking them on squares of puff pastry, with a bit of sugar and sliced almonds as a buffer in between.

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Apparently not having a kitchen is not keeping me from making stuff. We were clearing out the fridge to move it, and I became obsessed with the use of three quarters of an English cucumber. We couldn’t just eat it – I had to transform it. I almost made fattoush, which would have utilized a couple pitas in the freezer (extra points! It’s like the culinary version of Scrabble) but the gin won. And besides, I needed to get that ice cream machine insert out of the freezer too – those things take up some serious real estate. W was not pleased when he heard the machine going and learned I was making cucumber ice cream. It’s the easiest sorbet ever – chop a cuke into your food processor, add mint, gin, and a simple syrup made my warming sugar and water – which you can totally do in the microwave. It deserves a good gin, like Hendrick’s – something smooth and herbal. Puree +Continue reading

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We’re still out in Tofino, where I’ve settled into a routine of walking into town for coffee, then quickly emptying my cup in order to fill it with the first ripe blackberries of the season. Usually we miss the boat, blackberry-wise, but they seem to be starting earlier this year, a handful on each bush ripening far before their siblings. I love this design feature – the berries ripen in a staggered schedule, even on the same branch, doling out a few juicy berries a day to keep you going through August. When the first truly black berries arrived, I quickly picked enough to make jam; these days I manage a cup or two full, depending on my perseverance – enough for a batch of scones or a galette. My dad always requests a crumble, which is easily obliged; every summer I toss berries and stone fruits and rhubarb in pie plates or baking dishes with sugar and a spoonful of flour, then rub togetherContinue reading

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Just when I thought straight-up cherries by the handful couldn’t be improved upon. Applying heat to just about anything – but particularly juicy fruit – makes it better. You can roast cherries, of course. They get along well with balsamic vinegar, and a sprig or two of fresh rosemary, and a good grinding of black pepper. And the heat of the oven until the slump over and into each other, and give up their juices, which then caramelize on the parchment papered-pan.

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I have a bit of a rhubarb problem. The problem is, when I see an enormous crown of it in someone’s back yard, or if I’m offered up an armful of it, I can’t resist – even though we’re trying to clear out the kitchen and whittle the contents of the fridge down into the little bar-sized one in the garage and the already-full chest freezer in the basement. And yet I keep cramming our newly excavated spaces with freezer bags full of chopped rhubarb. Because it’s there. And it’s free. And it just keeps on growing. I could easily live on pie for these 8 weeks of summer, but daily pastry is not the best choice from a time and waistline perspective. And so often I resort to crumble – which is almost like pie, with all its best elements in easy-to-bake, scoopable form. And if you haven’t had cold crumble with a big spoonful of thick Greek yogurt on the back porch withContinue reading

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